Title: Lone Survivor
Director: Peter Berg
Stars: Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch, Ben Foster
Genre: Action, Biography, Drama
Runtime: 121 min
Lone Survivor is a remarkable film that manages to keep the viewer intrigued and captivated right up until the sorrowful climax, for both the story and individual characters. However, some may feel that certain flaws deviate the realism of the viewing experience at times.
Lone Survivor is the film adaptation of Marcus Lutrell’s non-fiction book of the same name. Marcus is one of four U.S. Navy Seals sent on a mission, Operation Red Wings, to kill or capture notoriously dangerous Al-Qaeda leader Ahmad Shahd, in Afghanistan, 2005. However, their seemingly straightforward mission is soon compromised after their location is discovered by mountain herdsmen. After disputes as to whether or not to kill the innocent men or to free them, they eventually agree to free them. This, however, leads to one of the herdsmen informing the Taliban of the Navy Seal’s failed intervention, resulting in conflict between the four men and literally dozens of Taliban.
Lone Survivor opens with real footage of the exceedingly intense military training that the Navy Seals undergo. The intro clearly outlines Peter Beg’s intentional approach to realism with his movie, as we are presented scenes of distressed soldiers and resuscitation, something of a rarity in modern war depictions.Nevertheless, whilst it is evident that Berg’s has intended for the audience to perceive his movie as an accurate adaptation of the events, there are instances in which action movie attributes are prevalent. However, this should not ruin your experience, nor should it deviate you from viewing the film itself.
The first character that we are introduced to is Marcus Lutrell himself, played by Mark Wahlberg, in which it is implied that he is in critical condition and on the verge of death. As the title implies, Marcus is the Lone Survivor. This is not a spoiler, as Berg has intentionally presented the movie’s climax as the opening scene in attempt to convey the idea the idea the unexpectedness of tragedy and sudden violence in war early on, as in the next scenes we are introduced to the remaining cast of characters and their side stories, most notably an ongoing conversation about the wedding of Michael Murphy (Taylor Kitsch). This creates a sense of sorrow all throughout the film, as we already know the fate of the characters, yet we still retain a keen interest in the non-war related conversations featured in the movie.
However, despite Berg’s attempt to convey the realism of the four men’s interests and personal, non-war related lives that the viewer can affiliate themselves with, none of the characters are really developed to their full potential. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the men’s fates are meaningless, but that the viewer is left somewhat hollow on the subject, as we have yet to learn very much at all about the characters. Despite this, the deaths are some of the most emotionally powerful and moving deaths of recent films; Berg has managed to captivate the viewer’s emotions, as we witness the men who had such promising, personal aspirations become enclosed in desperate situations that are undeniably hopeless. Lone Survivor has a quality rarely seen in movies, in which particular scenes, such as one where the men peer over a log to assess the situation they are in, only to discover that an army of Taliban outnumbers them so greatly that they hurl themselves back, and so does the viewer. The performances by the cast aren’t necessarily anything Oscar-worthy, but they certainly depict the real life characters to a praise-worthy extent. Hopelessness is also emphasised constantly through unreliability of the men’s SAT phone, in which they are unable to abort their mission, leaving them stranded in a never ending array of bullets being fired at them.
This constant, desperate attempt to flee the progressive forces actually opens up one of the films flaws. Although Lone Survivor is faithful to the memoirs of Marcus Lutrell in terms of the actual story, there are some, although very few, instances in the film that are too closely affiliated with the action genre. An example of this occurs with the multiple stunt jumps that are shown on-screen from the men dodging RPG rockets, even though they have each been shot numerous times. The shots themselves are impressive, though there is no denying that they are somewhat unnecessary. However, these action sequences are not forced to the extent that the viewer loses Berg’s sense of reality, as they are few and far between. In fact, some of these action sequences are wonderfully presented; there are numerous instances in which the men tumble down the mountain, in which we ambience overcomes them, with the only hearable sounds being that of the excruciating collisions that the men sustain. This alone is one of the qualities that makes Lone Survivor such an endearing experience, yet at the same time an undeniably discomfortable viewing.
Overall, Lone Survivor is an emotional depiction that most definitely warrants a viewing. Peter Berg has mostly overruled the negativity surrounding the choice to cast him as the director, as unlike his previous effort Battleship, Lone Survivor is sets itself astray from the clichés of the action genre, for the most part. In addition, the cast, in particular Mark Wahlberg, conveyed the sense of realism all throughout the film, from the opening during the Navy Seals camp, all the way to their sorrowful deaths. However, some may struggle to overcome the somewhat farfetched action sequences at times, although not to the extent that the movie is completely unrealistic or unwatchable.